On Monday, I wrote about mining some less than glamorous memories of my grandparents.
But there is another side to the story.
Aside from hidden cigarette butts, a lack of love for each other and an ugly divorce after 51 years of marriage, my grandparents were a wealth of information about the town and county in which I grew up. This place happens to be – or at least used to be – the least populated county in the least populated state of the nation.
My Grandma and Grandpa were raised just over the hill from each other. Their parents’ generation had homesteaded in Sublette County, Wyoming, chiseling out roots and lives in a land so sparse and barren that hardly anything grew. My grandparents learned to work this land, to own it rather than fear it. They started a family, launched business ventures in town (which included live-trapping and raising and breeding wild bobcats) and got to know people whose own families had similar stories of trial and triumph when it came to making life work in western Wyoming.
In short, my grandparents were sources of stories – stories that painted a history so rich it would be a crying shame to see that history dissolve with their deaths.
I knew this. I knew they were a wealth of information about my home. I knew they each had valuable knowledge that could preserve the value of this place for generations and generations to come. How often had I heard them spit out those wild and unbelievable tales of old-timers working in the moonshine business, or tricks guys played on each other in the old tie-hack camps as they prepared to float logs down waterways for the country’s major railroad construction?
I knew they would gladly tease out these stories and memories, if only someone took the time to listen to their stories and, somehow, save them.
My grandpa died too young, of suicide in 2003. I was knee-deep in an English degree at Gustavus Adolphus College two states away. Fortunately, he recorded some of his own hair-raising stories and memories via a weekly column in the local newspaper.
Grandma lasted longer. I was planning in the spring of 2010 to fly to Wyoming with a tape recorder and a notebook, and put in some long hours with her, hearing her stories of growing up and learning the history that she knew.
She died on Feb. 7 of that year. Super Bowl Sunday. My plans were a couple of months to late.
Why am I telling you this? Because it is my testimony of why your own life stories are important to preserve now. NOW. We all think we have a lot of time left. We can always do x, y and z tomorrow.
But what if we can’t?
So many of us have ambitions to get down and do that hard work – to sit with a relative and probe them about their lives, to sit with ourselves and journal a myriad thoughts about our experiences, to take the time to get to know a place or a person in a deep and distinct way and to preserve that knowledge for others.
But life – our own – gets in the way.
To preserve the life stories that are important to us, we need to make it a priority. We have to recognize the urgency in listening and taking action. If researching the history of a special place or of someone’s memory is important to you, you need to make it priority.
I can help.
In the coming months, I will be hosting a series of Life Stories workshops to help people launch projects that are important to them. As someone who has been hired to write full length biographies and scores of personal profiles, I know what it takes to invest in people, get information, and turn it into a format that is cohesive and worth preserving. I can help you sort through questions and insecurities about tackling such a project. I can help you write – or, on another level, write for you. I can help you forever save those stories and memories that are important to you.
If you’re interested or you want to know more, get in touch or leave me a comment. If you’re interested in attending a workshop, or want to host my workshop at your place of work, your church, community center, etc., I am happy to discuss details.
I am here, and hoping that you recognize the importance of preserving those life histories that are important to you, before it’s too late.